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Register Today for Youth Grow Summit!

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Cornell Garden-Based Learning is hosting the Youth Grow Summit at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY from June 28-30, 2011. All high-school aged youth (14-18 yrs old) in New York State who are interested in creating a just and sustainable food system are invited to attend.

The Youth Grow Summit will be an inspiring and empowering 3-day gathering focused on fostering youth leadership in the food system. Our goal is to bring youth from across New York State together to share skills and experience, and to inspire one another around growing food and creating healthy communities. Workshops topics will include youth leadership skills, local farming, food justice, youth entrepreneurship, seasonal cooking, school food and more!

At the summit, youth will:

  • Meet and connect with other youth in the food movement
  • Gain new leadership skills and training
  • Learn practical gardening and farming skills
  • Discover Ithaca’s growing local food system
  • Eat delicious local food, make statewide friends and grow together!


Open to all high-school aged youth in NYS (14-18yrs+)

Register by June 15th

Only $30 for 3 days (includes 6 meals + free housing)

Limited number of needs-based sponsorships are available

For more info, visit our blog (, join our Facebook group (search for “Youth Grow”), or e-mail Christine Hadekel, the Youth Grow Coordinator, directly (

Dig Art! Project Launch

With the unusually warm April weather we are having here in Ithaca, NY this week (with a high of 81 F today!), it’s hard not to get excited about the upcoming gardening season. While it might still be too early to start planting, it’s never too early to start garden planning!

Have you ever thought about growing an art garden? Did you know that you can make natural dyes, jewelry, baskets, mosaics, and prints all from the natural bounty that grows in your garden? With a little planning and a whole lot of creativity, your garden can become both the canvas and source of materials for art projects that will keep you busy the whole year round!

mosaic-150x150This garden season, Cornell Garden-Based Learning is excited to launch “Dig Art! Cultivating Creativity in the Garden”, our new online guide to garden arts. Dig Art! provides helpful tips on everything from how to grow an art garden, to which kinds of plants to harvest for different natural dyes.  You can find information on making gourd birdhouses, flower mandalas, grass photographs, seed necklaces, concrete leaf castings, and more!  We provide helpful tips on how to lead these activities safely and sustainably with children and youth, and are currently linking all Dig Art! activities to the NYS learning standards (so to all those New York State teachers out there – stay tuned!)

Check Dig Art! out here:

Free Toolkits:

poster-2Our new Dig Art! toolkits are hot off the press and come complete with a welcome letter,  a full color poster, and eight beautifully illustrated activity cards. Specifically designed to inspire an interest in and enthusiasm for art projects in the garden, the toolkit offers a starting point for engaging in garden arts activities.

To order your free Dig Art! toolkit, send an email to Max Welcome at with your name, organization, and contact information.

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a garden arts project or activity that you’d like to share? Feel free to post a comment on our blog or send Christine ( an email with your comments or ideas. We’ll be happy to post it on our blog to share with our readers.

Gourd Crafts for the Holidays!

Are you in gardening withdrawal now that we are in the midst of winter and your garden is probably covered in a white blanket of snow?

And are you looking for a creative hands-on activity to do over the winter holidays?

Well, gourd crafting may be the perfect way for you to get creative while still connecting with the fruits of your garden harvest!

Over the centuries, gourds have been adapted from simple utilitarian use to incredible works of art. As a result, gourd crafting has become important to cultures around the world especially in South America and Africa, and increasingly as a popular hobby in North America.

Gourds provide a 3-dimensional canvas that is very versatile in its shape, size, and use. You can cut, carve, paint, and embellish them with natural materials such as stone, feathers, plants, etc. The end result can be both functional and ornamental.

There is a saying in the gourd craft world that “if the artist can ‘think it’, then the gourd can ‘be it’!”

How to get started

Well first, you’ll need to get your hands on a Lagenaria (hard-shelled) gourd, which are the best kind for crafting. They dry hard, durable, and waterproof!Gourd Shekere

Next, you’ll need to decide what you want to make! Here are some ideas to get you started: bowls, baskets, colanders, ladles, plant holders, teapots, candle holders, lamps, napkin holders, wreaths, birdhouses, ornamental flowers, animals, drums, rattles, rainsticks, and more!

Next, you’ll need to think about the techniques that you’ll use to make your gourd craft:

There are many different techniques involved in gourd crafting including sanding, carving, burning, dyeing, decorating, and polishing!

Here’s a brief overview of each technique:

  • Sanding: Sanding gourds help to create a smooth and consistent texture and color. Make sure to use extra fine sandpaper, so as not to scratch the surface!

  • Carving: Gourds can be carved with regular woodworking tools, but they are a softwood, so be careful because not much pressure is needed to make a cut!
  • Burning: Pyrography is the art of burning designs into wood with heated tools. Use a wood burning tool with different sized points at the end to make larger or smaller burns. It’s a good a idea to pencil out your design ahead of time, so that you know exactly where and how much area you are going to burn.

  • Dyeing: You can color your gourd craft with dyes, paints, stains, waxes, and metallic leafing. Make sure that the gourd is completely dry before painting. Otherwise it will become moldy. Before painting, fill holes with woodfiller and sand it smooth. It is best to sand all over the gourd with an extra fine sandpaper to ensure a smooth surface for painting. Use acrylic or oil paints.
  • Decorating: Decorate and embellish your gourd crafts with natural and found materials such as stones, feathers, and plants!

  • Polishing: When you are done creating your gourd craft, you can use regular craft polish to cover your gourd and give it a smooth, shiny finish!

For more garden art activities and ideas, visit our Dig Art! project guide.

Interested in growing a gourd birdhouse? Download the activity instructions here.

And last, but not least, check out the photos below of our gourd booth and rattle shaker activity at the most recent Judy’s Day celebration hosted at Cornell Plantations on September 20, 2009.


Photo credit: Michael Ludgate


Photo credit: Michael Ludgate


Photo credit: Michael Ludgate


Photo credit: Michael Ludgate

School Garden-Based Learning in the Caribbean

Cornell Garden-Based Learning program educator Christine Hadekel just returned from a 2-day garden-based learning workshop in Bridgetown, Barbados. The event,  entitled “Linking Health, Nutrition, and Agriculture by Integrating School Garden-Based Learning through 4-H”, was organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Among the 60 participants at the workshop who represented more than a dozen Caribbean countries, were primary and secondary school teachers, principals, 4-H leaders, and officials from Ministries of Health, Education, and Agriculture. Two school garden educators from Louisiana State also attended the event.

Over the course of two days, participants discussed the common challenges they faced with their school garden programs and brainstormed creative ways to overcome them. A group strategic plan was developed to provide each of the countries with a model of how to move forward with the long-term planning of their school garden initiatives.

Haynesley Benn, the Minister of Agriculture for Barbados, demonstrated his full support for school garden-based learning when he delivered the opening remarks for the workshop,  noting that “several subjects can be integrated into the garden curriculum, including mathematics, language arts, geography, entomology, botany, landscaping, drawing, arts and crafts, music, manual training, physical education, home economics, nutrition and health promotion, small business and entrepreneurship and communication.”

It was very encouraging to see the Minister of Agriculture fully supporting garden-based learning, especially since it became very evident from discussions during the workshop that it will take the political collaboration of the Ministers of Agriculture, Health, and Education, to provide the policy backing needed to ensure the long-term success of garden-based learning initiatives.

Overall, the workshop was very inspiring and provided everyone with a lot of the motivation, inspiration, and skills needed to move forward in their garden-based learning work!

If you would like to connect with this group of garden-based learning educators, please join our new Facebook group. Simply search for “School Garden-Based Learning Network of the Caribbean”.

For more information about the workshop, check out these articles in the Barbados News:

Here are some photos from the event:

Creating a strategic plan for school garden-based learning

Creating a strategic plan for school garden-based learning

Teachers and 4-H leaders engaging in deep discussion about school garden-based learning!

Teachers and 4-H leaders engaging in deep discussion about school garden-based learning!

Visiting a local school garden

Visiting a local school garden

Digging for fresh peanuts in the garden

Digging for fresh peanuts in the garden

Eating fresh peanuts!

Eating fresh peanuts!

A view of the garden plot with the school in back

A view of the garden plot with the school in back

Youth Grow

Youth Grow is a new leadership program for youth that is being launched by Cornell Garden-Based Learning. Over the next 2 years we will train youth to take action in their communities and become actively involved in learning about and transforming their local food systems.


Young people can play multiple and important roles in the creation of sustainable community food systems: as key consumers, as future leaders, and increasingly, as agents of change.

The goal of Youth Grow is to provide youth with the training and tools needed to get involved in this national movement so that their engagement can produce meaningful and effective change in their own communities, and serve as motivation for others to do the same.

Want to learn more?

Contact Christine at or visit the Youth Grow website.